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Universal moral standards without an Archimedean point: Hume's refutation of relativism in "A Dialogue"
Södertörn University, School of Historical and Contemporary Studies, History of Ideas.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2782-4371
2013 (English)In: Philosophy, ISSN 0031-8191, E-ISSN 1469-817X, Vol. 88, no 4, 593-606 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An interpretation and evaluation is offered of Hume’s argument on cultural relativism in the essay ‘A Dialogue’. It is argued that Hume sets forth a typology of moral disagreement and for each type disputes the relativist conclusion that right and wrong varies between nations or historical epochs. When there are conflicting views on a moral matter, then either one side can be shown right and the other wrong, by arguments from principles which both sides accept, or more than one reasonable view can exist on the matter, according to the standards of both sides, or the disagreement concerns a morally indifferent matter, or the moral sentiments of at least one disputant are distorted (perverted, ‘artificial’). It is concluded that Hume commits himself to a particular form of meta-ethical relativism but not to normative relativism, the idea that what is wrong in one culture can be right in another. When ‘artificial’ moral sentiments are involved, one cannot resolve disagreement by arguments that are valid for everyone, or even for every ideally rational thinker. Nevertheless, there are universal standards for right and wrong, valid independently of any particular culture or tradition.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge, Storbritannien, 2013. Vol. 88, no 4, 593-606 p.
Keyword [en]
David Hume, history of philosophy, relativism, ethics, meta-ethics, sentimentalism
Keyword [sv]
David Hume, filosofihistoria, relativism, etik, metaetik, sentimentalism
National Category
Research subject
Historical Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-19981DOI: 10.1017/S0031819113000557ISI: 000324780900006ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84885124930OAI: diva2:658925
Understanding AgencyPerspektivberoende och kontrastivitet i inlevelsebaserade handlingsförklaringar
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, M2007-0247:1-PKSwedish Research Council, 421-2007-2267
Available from: 2013-10-23 Created: 2013-10-23 Last updated: 2016-09-22Bibliographically approved

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